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Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) Program Plans

The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) is a boost-phase effort in response to a 2002 Defense Science Board Task Force on Missile Defense Summer Study recommendation to develop a terrestrial-based boost phase interceptor as an alternative to the high-risk Airborne Laser development effort. The Defense Science Board supported the idea of building a ship-based ballistic missile defense. It concluded, however, that for Navy Theater Wide to participate in a national missile defense, it needed to develop a much faster interceptor than the Standard Missile-3.

As of February 2003 the MDA planned to develop and demonstrate by Block 2008, through flight-testing in the BMDS Test Bed, a mobile, ground-based boost phase capability that uses hit-to-kill technology. The dynamic performance of the Block 2008 interceptor may extend its initial capability into the ascent and midcourse phases; testing will occur to demonstrate the interceptor's potential application. Throughout its development, the Block 2008 capability would rely heavily on existing hardware and proven technology.

In FY 2003, MDA planned to award up to three BMDS interceptor concept design contracts with a down-select to one capability development and test contractor in FY 2004. The contract would be structured to design, develop, and test a kinetic boost/ascent element (includes platform-launch, C2BMC, and BMDS sensor integration) and multi-use interceptor capabilities in the BMDS Test Bed. Ground will be the first-basing mode (Block 2008) with a planned evolution to sea-basing in Block 2010. MDA would test the multi-use interceptor in boost, ascent, and midcourse engagement phases against ICBM, IRBM, and MRBM threat classes.

On December 03, 2003 the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded a contract to Northrop Grumman Space and Mission Systems Corp. for the development and testing of a concept for the Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) program designed to intercept and destroy a ballistic missile in its boost/early ascent phase, which is the period of flight lasting from three to five minutes after a ballistic missile is launched. The contract awarded was approximately $4.5 billion over the next eight years. This was the MDA's first capability-based development and test contract, and it features a design that was no longer constrained by the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, from which the United States formally withdrew in June 2002. This award follows an eight-month concept definition effort by two teams led by Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Each of the teams received $10 million to design a KEI concept.

The objective of the 2003 Northrop Grumman contract award was to develop and test a land-based interceptor for use in a "layered" ballistic missile defense system, possibly in 2010-2012. While the initial interceptor would be land-based, the KEI concept will quickly evolve to sea-basing for better proximity to some threat areas. There are significant technical and operational challenges to be solved in successfully developing a boost phase intercept capability. This contract is structured to handle all of them. A single interceptor design is compatible with both land and sea-basing.

In fiscal year 2004, the KEI program underwent a program replan to compensate for anticipated fiscal year 2005 funding cuts and the addition of new requirements (e.g., nuclear hardening) imposed by MDA. The original program called for a Block 2010 land-based capability to be available by the end of 2011. In the replan, the land-based capability was combined with the sea-based capability of Block 2012, both of which utilize the same interceptor. The KEI program underwent further restructuring. Based on comments received from the program office, anticipated funding cuts beyond fiscal year 2005 delayed the sea-based capability into Block 2014 (2014-2015 time frame) and deferring other activities indefinitely.

The Northrop Grumman-MDA Kinetic Interceptor team conducted a successful Initial Baseline Review in March 2004. The team refined the Kinetic Energy Interceptor concept design in FY04 to comply with new MDA requirements in areas such as nuclear hardening, antitamper, and insensitive munitions. The baseline seeker design evolved from a one-color to two-color seeker design to reduce plume-to-hardbody risk and increase engagement performance in the ascent and midcourse phases. The Kinetic Energy Interceptor team worked with BMDS capability development partners to ensure that the common booster design is compatible with other high value BMDS payloads such as the multiple kill vehicle and GMD exoatmospheric kill vehicle. The FY04 concept design update fully aligns the program with the Agency's vision for the development of a mobile, multi-use intercept capability built to the highest quality, safety and mission assurance standards.

Because completion of the land-based capability continues to be pushed further in the future, the program's funding profile changed. Under the plan to demonstrate an initial capability in the Block 2012 time frame, near-term funding through fiscal year 2009 was reduced by about 10 percent, with the balance shifted into later years. The 2005 restructuring noted by the program office further reduced funding by over 50 percent.

The Kinetic Energy Interceptors Development and Test program was restructured prior to the FY06 President's budget submission to include only the essential development and test efforts required to support the FY08 knowledge-based decision point. For FY07, the overall program plan and objectives remain the same; however, MDA subsequently conducted detailed planning of near term risk reduction activities through FY08. As a result, MDA removed the early two-color seeker risk reduction work from the Kinetic Energy Interceptors program. Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense was givven the lead for MDA. These changes kept the scope of risk reduction activities within available funding. The second stage rocket motor static fire moved into FY06 (from 4th quarter FY05) to allow a detailed investigation of an observed bonding separation between the propellant and liner in one area of the motor.

Congress directed that funding and work associated with the Near Field Infrared Experiment program transfer from the Ballistic Missile Defense System Interceptors PE to the Ballistic Missile Defense Technology PE (0603175C). Years affected are FY06 ($13,706) and FY07 ($10,800). The Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) technology effort will collect high and low resolution images of a boosting rocket to improve understanding of exhaust plume phenomenology and plume-to-rocket body discrimination. The Agency transitioned the Space Test Bed Program (Project R216) to the Ballistic Missile Defense System Space Program (Project 0517, PE 0603895C).

The KEI program underwent a rebaseline plan in early 2007 to compensate for funding reductions from fiscal year 2004 through 2006, and the addition of new requirements such as a larger booster, 2-color seeker, and development verification tests. The KEI contract was scheduled to end in January 2012, however funding reductions forced program officials to delay the completion of its land mobile based capabilities-originally planned for Block 2012 to Block 2014. According to program officials, once the re-baseline is complete and negotiations are finished, the KEI contract will extend through June 2015. Additionally, program officials noted that the addition of new requirements, the reductions in funding, and the deferring of activities had increased the overall program cost by $1.5 billion.

MDA modified the KEI program beginning in FY 2008 to focus on initially developing a single interceptor that can perform three missions. The KEI program has three complementary objectives: (1) to develop a midcourse interceptor capable of replacing the current fixed Ground-based Interceptor (GBI) when the deployed GBIs become obsolete; (2) to develop this interceptor so that it could be strategically deployed as an additional midcourse capability with mobile land- or sea-based launchers; and (3) to assume the boost- and ascent-phase intercept mission within the BMDS if the Airborne Laser (ABL) fails to meet its performance objectives.

The FY 2008 interceptor component development and test activities are heavily focused on the flight test of a tactically representative booster in the fourth quarter of FY 2008. These activities include extensive ground testing and integration of key components (rocket motors, thrust vector control units, avionics and software, etc.) necessary to demonstrate the booster capability with a high probability of mission success. The knowledge gained from a successful booster flight will be directly leveraged to engineer a multi-use interceptor that is both producible and reliable.

To build quickly on the anticipated success of the FY 2008 booster flight test, the initial Kinetic Energy Interceptors capability will be from land-fixed launch sites. This approach leverages available BMDS infrastructure and facilities to begin intercept flight testing in Block 12. Element engineering for a mobile interceptor capability will be maintained at the level appropriate to complete development of a land- or sea-mobile capability and flight test program following the fielding of the land-fixed interceptor capability.

As of 2007 MDA planned to demonstrate three critical technologies - the thrust vector control system, attitude control system, and the three-stage booster motor - in two booster flight tests by the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2011. Other technologies will have been demonstrated in ground tests, such as hardware-in-the-loop tests. The integration of all critical technologies will be demonstrated in an element characterization test early in fiscal year 2013, a sea risk reduction flight test in mid-fiscal year 2013, followed by the first integrated flight test late in fiscal year 2013.

The Kinetic Energy Interceptors common booster is capable of carrying the Multiple Kill Vehicle and other advanced payloads needed to counter complex threats in midcourse. The Kinetic Energy Interceptor's mobility, fast acceleration, and heavy lift capacity provide the ability to deliver these payloads early in the midcourse timeline. The early Kinetic Energy Interceptor engagements (boost or early midcourse), in combination with later Ground Based Interceptor or Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense engagements, provide additional layers of protection and increase effectiveness against countermeasures for the BMDS.




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